We are now getting prepared for Day #3 and there is still no sign of the famous Byron Bay donuts. Upon inspecting the inside of the festival I have a feeling they decided not to come in fear of not being able to keep up with demand as I’m yet to see a police officer without some sort of food in their hands. The festival vibe has been fantastic over the last few days and we have also been blessed with some beautiful sunny days and some chilly but not freezing nights. I have finally had my first shower of the festival and I am feeling great, bring on Hilltop Hoods tonight!!!
It’s been a wild ride for Trophy Eyes in their rise to dominating the Australian punk scene. Early on in their career I saw them play a dodgy dance studio in the second level West End building where I thought the floor was going to break the whole time with a crowd of around 100. Fast forward to 2019 and they’ve played an arena tour supporting arguably the biggest scene band at the moment – Bring Me The Horizon – and now the Amphitheatre at SITG. Fittingly, this massive show for the Newcastle was the send of for founding guitarist Kevin as he goes on to start a new non travelling the world 10 months of a year life. The set heavily featured songs from their 2018 release ‘The American Dream’ but also included ‘Chemical Miracle’ favourites Chlorine and Heaven Sent plus Loosie Hurt. In a moment that is sure to go viral, the lads brought out Chris Lilley to perform a punk version of the incredible Fuck Song from Lunatics which sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Even though I live in the same city where it happens every month and have worked on events where it’s been a part of the program, Pub Choir is something I’ve still yet to try and it was a long time coming. With constant sell out shows all across the world, I was not only keen to give it a try, but to see how it translated to a Splendour crowd. The song for this one was Roll Up Your Sleeves by Meg Mac. After about 45 minutes of teaching, it was time for the crowd to be back up singers for Meg herself who came out to sing with everyone. I cannot recommend getting a group of mates together and going along to a Pub Choir for a sing along – you’ll never know who’ll turn up.
As soon as I mentioned I was going to Splendour everyone’s first response was “Are you going to see Kwame“? I then completely forgot it until yesterday so I rocked up with zero prior knowledge as to what I would be walking into. As the lights dimmed down a guy in dorags appeared on the stage and the crowd broke out into a chant of “Kwame“. Backed by a full and very impressive band, Kwame took control of the Mix Up Stage and the fans were loving it. Playing tracks such as No Time, Clouds and new track Summer Rain Kwame rapped his heart out. Even though most the time you couldn’t understand what he was saying his energy was so high and his beats were so catchy it didn’t matter anyway. Bringing out his boy Phil Fresh, for single Who Dat, Kwame started and finished his set on a high and the fans loved it!
Everytime I see Dean Lewis live he just gets better. Last Splendour Dean played on the GW Mcleannen stage but this year with a massive upgrade as he played at the Amphitheatre. Performing to what he called “The biggest crowd hes ever played to”, Dean seamlessly played through all of his most popular singles with passion and ease making it look like he could do it in his sleep. The female bias crowd knew every word, songs such as 7 Minutes and Stay Awake brought out the passionate sing along’s and tears as we felt the pain and angst of our best mate Dean. Chemicals and Be Alright all trigger real emotions and you can’t see Dean Lewis live without hearing his most famous single Waves, which even the children in the crowd knew all the words to. Dean Lewis is a super talented dude and he was backed by an equally as talented band who all came together and played a completely flawless set.
One of my most anticipated sets of the day was Jacob Banks. Having to go up against Hottest 100 dominates Ocean Alley, it was a tough time slot for him and it was kinda reflected in the performance. Something just felt off about it. While his vocals and band were on point, there was just something missing. To my surprise, while he didn’t play Unknown To You or Piece of Mind, Slow Down was a song that came out in the perfect time in my life meant that hearing it live was incredibly special.
I’m a big Gambino fan, and after watching his Coachella set, I knew as the Splendour headliner he would be bringing his A-Game. But my rule is if there’s an international you’re a fan of and you haven’t seen them before – that’s who you’re seeing. I’ll admit, I’m only a new-ish fan of The Streets but nonetheless, I was very keen to see the geezer himself Mike Skinner do what he does best. This set felt like a DJ set. Normally for a rap show this isn’t a good thing, but for this one, it worked perfectly. Songs blended in together seamlessly and Mike’s comedic chops allowed him to banter with the crowd mid-song while immediately jumping right back into the song. The Streets’ discography is 50/50 with turn-up garage rap and softer more emotional work so the vibe was all over the place – but that’s what you come to a Streets show for. Everything was made worth it with the final track – Fit But You Know It. A tongue-in-cheek song filled with funny punchlines and bars that is an absolute party and sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Heading back into the festival grounds it was clear all roads lead to Ocean Alley. It felt like every person attending Splendour was making their way to the Amphitheatre stage to catch the Byron surf rockers and it was clear why. From the minute they kicked off their set the whole arena lit up with super fans who were absolutely pumped to be catching them live. Playing tracks such as Yellow Mellow, Partner In Crime and Overgrown, the crowd was manically dancing along to the beat as the boys played tighter than I’ve ever seen them before. Ocean Alley’s feel good vibe mixed with their super irresistible tracks made for a bloody killer set and the whole amphitheatre couldn’t stop grooving. Their setlist was streamline and jam packed with every goodie bag single you could think of and they even sped some of their tracks up just so they could play more. Finishing up their set with killer single Knees, Ocean Alley couldn’t have improved their set even if they wanted to. It was flawless and everyone has an absolute blast watching them.
CATFISH & THE BOTTLEMEN
I’ve been waiting years to see Catfish and the Bottlemen live. They are one of those bands that have played everywhere until I worked out who they were and then they didn’t tour for ages. But my god were they worth the wait. Playing killer tunes such as Cocoon, 7 and Twice the boys rocked their absolute hearts out giving the crowd every bit of energy that they had. I wasn’t familiar with every single of there’s but with the incredible light show and the boys contagious vibe it was impossible to stop dancing. One of the best things about Catfish and the Bottlemen is that they sound identical to they way they do on recording and you just can’t put a price on a good live performance. They looked like they were having as much fun on the stage as we were in the crowd and the atmosphere was unbeatable.
I saw Childish Gambino a few years ago at Falls Festival and it was extremely disappointing so I was a little hesitant as to see him again this year. But holy hell!!!! Childish blew his set the hell up and from the minute he walked onto the stage his energy was through the roof. Wide eyed and vibing on life, Childish danced his way through single after single performing at his absolute best and giving Splendour the performance we had all been waiting for. Thankfully this year Splendour stepped up their sound game and no matter where you were in the Amphitheatre you could hear every beat and every word. This just added to the to the intensity of Gambino’s back up gospel choir and the ambience of his signature sound. With thick clouds of smoke in the air, fan favourites such as Redbone, Sober and 3005 started a classic rap along for all the die hard fans in the crowd and if that wasn’t enough Gambino ripped out chart topper This Is America. Its not just the music that has Donald Glovers name on everyone’s lips its his magnetic charisma and that in itself could carry him through a 2 hour set. His set was the perfect example of great attention to detail. There was so much going on with back up dancers, strobe lights and a full on band but Gambino didn’t let them take him out of the spotlight. He used it all to lift his set to a sky rocketing level and he exceeded everyone’s expectations by far.
Stay tuned for DAY #3!
PHOTO CRED || IAN LAIDLAW